It is an unfortunate truth that whenever a large group of people is required to come together for a whole day — some of whom are, as author Terry Pratchett would put it, not talking to each other because of what-they-said-about-our-Nancy — hiccups are bound to follow. Months of preparation and obsessing have culminated in a single day on which the bride has envisioned everything going, if not perfectly, then at least without a single disaster.
I don’t want to be a total buzz kill, but disasters will happen. When I say disaster, I’m not referring to anything catastrophic like a flood or an earthquake. With emotions running high for the bride, the groom and their families, anything that goes slightly awry can be considered a disaster.
These are the three most common wedding day challenges and how to overcome them.
1. Things will run late.
Nine out of ten weddings that I photograph run late. Most of the time, this is because the bride and groom haven’t given enough time for mingling in between events. They don’t foresee that after the ceremony, for example, guests will want to congratulate them before heading toward the reception. More often than not, the timetable I receive from the couple goes something like this:
2:00 to 3:00 pm. Ceremony
3:15 to 4:30 pm. Drinks reception
It is up to me to let them know that 15 minutes is not enough time for guests to congratulate the newlyweds and gather round for a few snaps outside of the church. To make sure that people aren’t just milling around, unsure of what’s happening, I always ask my couples to have someone with a loud voice, whether it be the best man or a bridesmaid, to herd people to the next event in the schedule.
2. Uncle Bob.
Ah, the notorious Uncle Bob, armed with his 500D and a pair of healthy elbows. Every time you take a shot, half of the back of his head is in it. When you line up the wedding party for a group shot, he’s right next to you, so half the people are looking at him instead of you.
There are a few ways to deal with Uncle Bob. You could bring it up with the couple beforehand and let them know that you might swoop in like a protective eagle should there be any Bobs around. The method I prefer, however, is to make Uncle Bob your ally. When you spot him early in the day, come up to him and chat a bit about what a nice camera he has. Then ask him if he could do you a favor and ensure that other people with cameras wait for your cue before taking their shots. As a photography enthusiast, most Uncle Bobs would only be too happy to act as your assistant. After taking your shots, give him a signal to let him know that he’s free to take shots.
3. Murphy’s Law.
Everything that can go wrong, will, according to Murphy. My wedding day philosophy is: Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I can’t tell you how many times florists deliver the wrong flowers, or a bridesmaid breaks a zipper, or a bride’s hair doesn’t quite turn out the way she wanted. With the aforementioned emotions, it won’t take much for the tears to come on. While it isn’t technically the photographer’s job to handle situations like these, for the sake of the pictures, I like to help keep the peace as much as I can.
I find often that the bride is more worried about how things would look in the pictures than anything else. At a wedding where they sent the wrong flowers, for example, the bride calmed down after I assured her that even though the flowers didn’t fit with her overall theme colors, they would still look beautiful in the pictures. At another wedding, one of the bridesmaids became tipsy before the portraits and tore the sash off her dress. Once again, things seemed bad until I assured the bride that as long as we positioned the bridesmaid in a certain way, the pictures would come out okay.
All in all, being a good wedding photographer requires more than technical know-how, it’s a lot of hand-holding and prep work, so that both the couples and I know beforehand know what to expect.
My last tip: Make sure to have a pocketful of clean tissues ready!